Covid-19 pushes clinics to cut hours

Operational costs higher now as GP clinics need to fully comply with SOPs


PRIVATE clinics are forced to cut down their operating hours to trim operating costs as the patient load, especially walk-in patients, have dropped tremendously on Covid resurgence nationwide.

Malaysian Medical Association president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said operational costs are higher now as doctors need to fully comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“The clinic also needs to spend on personal protective equipment and sanitisers.

“We don’t have exact numbers of clinics that are facing the risk of ceasing their operation, but at the moment many senior GPs (general practitioners) are taking this downturn as a reason to give up their practice,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Certain clinics have claimed from Social Security Organisation’s Wage Subsidy Programme to subsidise the staff salaries, said Dr Subramaniam.

He believes some tax relief should at least be given to the GPs as they too are frontliners in the battle against Covid-19, adding that the government may be able to reduce the costs by providing PPEs or screening kits to clinics.

“The Ministry of Health (MoH) should look into sending their stable chronic illness patients to GPs for monitoring through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

“This should be considered as our public healthcare system is currently highly strained. The standard of care for non-Covid-19 patients must also be maintained in a pandemic.”

Expressing similar sentiment, the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) said all early cases of Covid-19 Category 1 (CAT 1) and CAT 2 should be managed by GPs to allow the government facilities to treat the hospitalised cases.

Its president Dr Steven KW Chow said GPs should also be recruited without the present red tape to help immediately with vaccination for all walk-ins.

He noted that the association and other societies had started mobilising GPs for FPMPAM’s initiative called VAKZ4ALL under the PPP Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme.

“VAKZ4ALL’s key features focus on private sector-driven initiative, can cater to non-governmental organisations, self-funded and self-paying.

“The modus operandi is walk-in, assess, sign consent, inject and update. This is to help kick-start economic recovery,” he told TMR.

Dr Chow said the main challenge for GPs now is the fear of getting the doctor, staff and family infected by an unknowing positive patient.

“This can happen even if you are following all SOPs 100%. The current high rate of community-based infection is a major fear factor.

“Our GPs are taking this as part of the risk of the job in their duty to provide frontline medical care.”

From FPMPAM’s observation, he said many senior GPs are shortening their hours of practice and going into retirement earlier than before.

Dr Steven recommends for the annual practicing certificate fees for GP doctors to be waived this year and the next.

“The government should provide medical indemnity for private clinics who are participating in Covid-19-related work.

“Patients from government outpatient clinics should be outsourced to GPs for follow up and treatment. The MoH Outpatient Department manpower should be relocated to help in public health work to fight Covid-19.”